They came one after another. A work event I’d been helping prepare for months. Both universities where I teach canceled classes and would move the rest online. A trip to Boston with my youngest daughter for her first basketball tournament. Another local tournament for two daughter’s soccer teams. Then the postponement of the youth soccer season altogether. Then their basketball season. Then one’s theatre program, another’s gymnastics etc.
In a matter of two days every single activity or plan that would take us out of our home for the next two months was canceled.
The only exception was their school. Which has since been closed and moved online just as I was writing this post.
This experience will undoubtedly be all too familiar for anyone reading this. The new normal is that the old normal is canceled. Major conferences, all sports leagues, all youth activities, stores, schools, events, vacations, travels, jobs and so on.
As each domino fell my initial reaction was one of loss. But quickly you realize that your loss may be trivial compared to others. There is a cascading effect of each cancelation as people’s livelihoods, incomes and experiences are sacrificed at the altar of greater public health. The hardships this will place on families, small business and especially those whose health may be compromised can hardly be imagined.
Trying to calculate the personal, economic, and societal loss thus far is impossible and so much of it is beyond anyone’s control.
But while we can’t quite grasp what is being lost, we can get a handle on what we can give.
We can give respect, compassion, understanding and patience to one another. We start with charitable thinking which assumes that everyone is trying to do the best they can with limited information during fluid and unchartered times.
And then there is the question of what those of us can do with what that canceled time. Yes we have to juggle our work with our kids being home. But if you do the math, you may find more time than you realized. For example, in my own situation, I have calculated that with all the cancelations, I now have an additional one hundred and fifty hours of additional free time over the next two months.
How will I use it? Will I spend it online going down rabbit hole after rabbit hole – occasionally finding valuable information but mostly adding frustration and worry? Will I look to escape and go full ostrich by binge watching shows on Netflix or HBO?
Or could I use that time for good?
That time that was spent traveling, commuting, coaching, watching sports, and chauffeuring children around can now be used to check in on seniors, help stock the local food pantry, read with my children and guide their home schooling, mentor other students online, help a neighbor with a need, support a local business, play games or music with my kids, donate to a worthy cause impacted by this crisis, pick up the phone to have meaningful conversations with my family and friends, and so on and so on.
The opposite of “to cancel” is “to keep.” We must do what we can to keep calm, keep perspective, keep working, keep our lives running – all while keeping our sanity.
But I hope we can use also use some of the time that was “canceled” to keep finding ways to support and care for one another.